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Jesus married Mary Magdalene, had a son named Judah, died, and stayed dead, says Simcha Jacobovici, an award-winning filmmaker. A Discovery Channel documentary on his findings, The Lost Tomb of Jesus, will be televised March 4. Jacobovici, who describes himself as an investigative journalist and a filmmaker, directed and produced the film with Titanic director James Cameron. He claims that statistical, historical, archaeological, and DNA evidence back his position.

However, scholars are dismissive of the filmmakers' claims. "This is a theory that is so deeply flawed that it deserves to be dismissed reasonably quickly," said Ben Witherington III, professor of New Testament interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminary.

Scot McKnight, professor of religious studies at North Park University, says that the filmmakers' theses are based less on scholarship than on The Da Vinci Code novel. "The bigger theme I think is the fraud of Christianity. I think that's what they're trying to demonstrate—that early Christians believed in something that didn't happen."

"This is really a brilliant example of archaeological sensationalism," said Gary Burge, professor of New Testament at Wheaton College. Burge notes that allegations like Jacobovici's are nothing new. "It happens again and again in the Holy Land that people win their 15 minutes of fame by discovering some new burial cave."

The "lost tomb" is nothing new, either. In 1980, a construction team in Talpiot, a suburb of Jerusalem, found the tomb as they started bulldozing the site. At the time, construction projects were turning up a dozen archaeological sites every month, says Jacobovici in The Jesus Family Tomb. The construction team reported the finding to authorities, and a team ...

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February 2007

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